Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2016. 6:02 p.m. CST.
By Richard Harrison: Belize City, Belize became what it is today because of its location.
Found on the Caribbean Sea, it rests nicely at the harbor where Haulover Creek empties. Originally known as Belize Town, Belize City Belize was founded by British lumber harvesters known as Baymen round about the mid 1650″s. Before the arrival of the British, Belize City was the site of a Mayan settlement named Holzuz.
To aid in their foresting industry in Belize, the British brought in a good amount of slaves from Africa, which contributes to the country’s ethnic diversity today. Belize Town cemented its importance in 1798 when the British fended off Spanish advances in the area. This heralded achievement is known as the Battle of St. George’s Caye.
It wasn’t hard for the British to make Belize Town their prime establishment in the region. With rivers and creeks flowing this way to sea, it was perfect for their logging shipments. In its early days, Belize City was certainly no more than a simple logging port, and as the story goes, it would grow and spread out over a landfill of rum bottles and mahogany chips deposited by the Baymen. Supposedly, during the Belize rainy season, the Baymen would head to Belize City and the coast to ship much of their harvested lumber overseas.
Plenty of rum was bought with the funds they received. It must have been a pretty interesting place indeed during those days.
Unfortunately for Belize City, it’s history has seen more than its fair share of calamity in the way of hurricanes and fires, with the 1961 Hurricane Hattie being among the most destructive. It would be Hurricane Hattie that would more or less be the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of the push to move the capital to Belmopan. This move was executed in 1970. For two decades after that, Belize City would struggle to establish its identity, with drug-related issues among the woes. The booming 21rst century Belize cruise industry has certainly done a lot to bring tourists and tourist dollars into Belize City in recent years. Many cruise ship passengers head downtown to perhaps enjoy a little sightseeing, shopping and dining, while others head further inland to enjoy a featured attraction or two. DESTINATION 360
Belize City boundaries currently are to the west, at Burden Canal bridge and to the north, at Haulover Creek bridge. Belize City needs to merge with Hattieville, which is 12 miles west of Belize City….with Ladyville to the Burrel Boom junction….and with Burrel Boom… within the Burrel Boom – Hattieville causeway.
The vision of Belize City at this scale will allow for the rapid development of the City…and will allow the City to raise capital for necessary public infrastructure.
This will allow for major movements of capital that will transform the City and these annexed communities within a short space of time….into a scaled and modern city that can compete with other cities regionally.
Political accommodation of representatives from Ladyville, Hattieville, Burrel Boom and Mile 8/Western Pines are to be represented on the expanded Belize City Council.
This can be facilitated by movement of the BEL headquarters to Western Pines area, near Hattieville….and the movement of BTL and Bowen & Bowen headquarters to Ladyville area. BTL can be located in the EPZ at their DATA PRO property…and Bowen & Bowen at their Ladyville plant property.
The existing BTL property can be converted into a major duty-free commercial shopping center aimed at facilitating cruise tourists and tourists travelling via Municipal Airport. This should aim to be on the scale of no less than the duty-free shopping plaza in Chetumal.
The existing BEL property can be converted into a gated community of condominiums and residential apartments.
Bowen & Bowen HQ can be converted into a top class bar/restaurant/entertainment for cruise tourism customers and Belize City residents/visitors…prominently featuring Bowen’s fine products and local cuisine presented in international standards of quality, price and presentation.
Belize Bank, FCIB Bank, Scotia Bank and Atlantic Bank HQ’s should be relocated to Coney Drive….and their existing buildings should be converted to high-end duty free shops and entertainment spots for cruise tourism. They should only have ATM’s in these buildings. Coney Drive should become the Wall Street of Belize…with Insurance Companies, Law Firms, Accounting firm and Banks…they should evolve into a more sophisticated and competitive financial system…serving the region and the world…instead of focusing only on Belize.
BTL’s office on Regent Street should be re-located to Ladyville in the new BTL HQ….and this building used as the BTB HQ, where they could open a tourist information window…promoting our overnight destinations to cruise tourists…in addition to what they currently do.
The properties along the riverfront from Swing Bridge to East Canal should be traded with the owners….so that a modern seafood market is built there….where the seafood could be on display and prepared in a wide variety of forms…for visitors and residents to flock to…and where Belizean seafood (especially its lobster and shrimps) is positioned as SPECIAL anywhere in the world. It should feature a sophisticated online store where visitors can purchase and ship frozen BELIZE SEAFOOD to family and friends in North America in small gift packages at competitive prices relative to what they pay in USA and Canada….distribution logistics can be worked out with AmeriJet. This can evolve into a REGIONAL SEAFOOD COMMODITIES EXCHANGE…an area of business trade that is not yet dominated by anyone within the region.
Wood Depot and Pine Lumber should be amalgamated in an expansive property close to the Port of Belize….and should establish a modern TIMBER EXCHANGE with focus on supplying the timber needs of the entire CARICOM market with basic timber…while developing exotic wood markets in developed countries. Laws will have to be changed to allow for free flow of timber in fleeches from the rich Peten, Chiapas and Honduras regions. A lucrative business would develop alongside for value-added wooden products. Their existing properties could be used to develop a modern furniture and wooden kitchen utensils manufacture business to supply regionally….UNICOMER/COURTS and LIVERPOOL and SEARS in Mexico at the volumes that they require. We can give this a jump start by negotiating with Jamaica, to trade our timber for their Carib cement.
BOWEN & BOWEN should be encouraged to amalgamate its beer business with one of the major Mexican manufacturers….and together with them seek out contracts for the manufacture of Guiness stout for the entire CARICOM and Mexican regions (although dark beer is relatively new to Mexico, it is growing fast in that market)…and Mexican beer brands for supply to SouthEast Mexico and CARICOM (many of which are now shipped from far away states in northern Mexico). This way, they would not need nor want non-tariff and tariff protection for the beer industry….many new jobs would be created…and Belize would be supplying beer to the entire region. Bowen needs to be convinced that it is better to own 50% of $10, than to own 100% of $1.
Travellers and Cuellos need to be merged into one large corporation….which can raise though public offering…the millions necessary for product development…plant development…and brand development….so that they can compete with the likes of Appleton in the regional and world markets. The first market to attack is Mexico, where there is no dominant local brand…and where Appleton from Jamaica currently controls the lion share of the Mexican market for rum. They could likely raise capital from Appleton investments….and negotiate production contracts for Appleton brands aimed for the Mexican market…as they would be more efficient supplying that market from Belize…especially if Belize could negotiate rum as part of the evolving Partial Scope Agreement with Mexico….and this could be included in the beer negotiations.
Belize needs to attract major investments in sugar value-adding businesses….such that more of Belize sugar is exported in finished consumer products and less in raw plantation sugar. The likes of Gamesa of El Salvador and Donde of Mexico…need to be convinced that they can supply the entire CARICOM markets from Belize…this would also increase demand for flour…and Belize Mills would have to increase its plant and human capacity by five times. Cadbury needs to be convinced that the plant it closed in the UK can be transferred to Belize…for supplying US, Mexican, Canadian, CARICOM and South American markets more efficiently under our trade agreements with those countries…also that Belize has the ability to supply them with high quality cocoa and sugar year round…at competitive prices…allowing for them to purchase sugar, milk and cocoa at world market prices. The expanded Belize City can offer lands and tax incentives for these companies to establish here.
Belize City needs to be a more green and naturally populated with tropical colors. The entire seafront needs to be populated with mangrove, coco-plum, seagrapes, coconut trees. Its boulevards need to be lined with colorful tropical trees and shrubs that are maintained year round.
We are missing the boat by allowing private ownership of the seafront from Port of Belize south to Punta del Este….there should be a double lane boulevard running that entire seafront….which would enhance the beauty of the City…and increase the value of the properties located along that stretch. The same can be said for the seafront from Haulover Creek entrance to Vista Del Mar.
A major boulevard needs to be built along the Burden Canal….so that new properties can be developed there…and on the periphery of the lake off the Western Highway ….so that high end lake front properties can be developed there (starting 250 ft from the edge of the lake to allow for public parks and entertainment spots to locate on the lakefront with a boulevard separating residents from these public spaces).
The entire river front from Houlover Creek to Manatee Lookout should be developed into an entertainment stretch, with significant upgrade of a toll road to facilitate rapid access to and from the Belize International Airport. The name of the airport needs to be changed back to the Belize International Airport (for international marketing recognition purposes)…and the new BEL HQ in Hattieville named after Phillip Goldson to compensate.
East Canal and West Canal need to be made to flow in underground tunnels…and the resulting over-ground spaces designed to turn its adjacent streets into commercially viable properties.
A privately run Urban Development Corporation should be encouraged…which raises capital to invests building homes in areas closer to Hattieville…on lots that are 100’x100’… so that those can be traded for properties now occupied by persons in south-side Belize City. The City should announce a gradual but steady increase in property taxes in Belize City proper, which would encourage residents to move into residential areas so developed. The objective is to reduce the congestion of the City over time…which is a major contributor to stress, competitive behavior and crime.
In short….Belize City need a scaled vision….to re-engineer itself so as to…capture more tourism dollars…to develop a more sophisticated financial services market that operates competitively in the region and the world…to develop its existing industries to regional/international levels…to build upon Belize’s history as a trading and value-adding center for regional timber and seafood, rather than a production center….and to attract new industries that build upon the resources that Belize already have…or can competitively produce/supply.
A modern city will evolve…which creates many more jobs than people living in the city now…a naturally humble people will be able to earn an honest living…drugs and its crime companion will be banished from a law abiding city….and we will live happily ever after.
I could go on and on and on…..but lets leave it here for now.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and services businesses in Belize. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.
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